College Football Reeling--SEC Troubled, Pac-12 Tested, Scott Slammed, Northwestern Praised
As the college football season that never-should-have-been marches on, it's becoming clear that game schedules should be written in pencil, or perhaps crayon.
Almost 20% of the games scheduled to date this year have been postponed or cancelled, including last weekend's match-ups involving No. 1 (Alabama), No. 3 (Ohio State), and No. 5 (Texas A&M).
In all, four SEC games--LSU-Alabama, Georgia-Missouri, Texas A&M-Tennessee and Auburn-Mississippi State--weren't played.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey acknowledged how tentative the rest of the season looks at this point and said he's very "troubled" by these recent developments.
He should be.
Pac-12 Testing Snafu: Stanford learned the hard way that in 2020, teams must contend not just with the virus itself, but also with an incompetent bureaucracy associated with the virus.
The Pac-12 apologized for "testing protocol" and "procedural" errors that led to four Stanford players being unnecessarily held out of the Cardinal's opener with Oregon a week prior. Since the banished foursome included starting quarterback Davis Mills and starting wide receiver Connor Wedington, one might say those errors had a substantial impact on Stanford's chances to win the game.
I guess that's what Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott meant when he announced, with great fanfare, that the league's new testing program was a "game-changer."
Cal-UCLA: The league did show some impressive flexibility in allowing Cal and UCLA to hook up Sunday morning when their scheduled games with Arizona State and Utah were cancelled due to COVID outbreaks in Tempe and Salt Lake City.
Neither team had any time to prepare for its new opponent, but the Bruins had one game under their belt and Cal hadn't played in almost a year, which was the biggest factor in UCLA's 34-10 upset.
Mea Culpa: My old friend, iconic sports columnist Mark Purdy, pointed out that I may have been too generous to Notre Dame in labeling the Fighting Irish as the school "closest to Stanford" among major college athletic programs in terms of its academic requirements.
Purdy's alma mater, Northwestern, actually ranks higher than Notre Dame both in terms of academic standing and criteria for admission. And Purdy is quick to point out the Wildcats have won two of their last three games against the Irish and three of their last five against the Cardinal.
Scott Takedown: The Los Angeles Times wrote a blistering--and well-deserved--critique of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott a few days ago. The column noted many of the same issues covered in this space over the past four years, and included some delicious quotes from current and former Pac-12 ADs.
With respect to Scott's oft-repeated refrain that, despite their media rights deficit of $10 to $20 million per year compared to the Big Ten and SEC, Pac-12 schools will reap riches from a new TV deal in 2024:
“I’m not going to be able to get a charter to fly a football team this October with the revenues that will come in 2024,” said a former Pac-12 athletic director. “Meanwhile, in the SEC, they’ve got so much money they’re building beautiful softball facilities.”
With respect to the quality of the Pac-12 Networks, from another former AD: “We had ESPN and Fox picking off the best football and basketball games in a league that already doesn’t have many, and the rest of the stuff that nobody wants to watch going to the Networks.”
With respect to the morale around the conference office:
“We have executives that don’t watch, don’t know and aren’t involved,” said a longtime Pac-12 Networks employee. “What’s constantly asked around the office is, ‘What are these people doing?’”
Harbaugh Watch: Wisconsin 49, Michigan 11. Another nail in the coffin.
Stanford Woes: The Cardinal lost 35-32 to Colorado in a game that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate. It marked Stanford’s sixth straight loss dating back to last season.
Weaponless 49ers: I’ve never been one to use injuries as an excuse, but this year’s blizzard of injuries to the 49ers is almost beyond belief. The Niners are without their four most important offensive players—tight end George Kittle, running back Raheem Mostert, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receiver Deebo Samuels.
Even without these weapons, the Niners were in position to win yesterday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, but two muffed punts and a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty on Kentavius Street sealed their doom.